DULUTH, Ga. -- After riding its 3-point shooters to the SEC tournament final, Vanderbilt had to find another way to complete its championship run.
Dee Davis, a 5-foot-7 senior, provided the answer.
Davis scored 19 points, including a crucial breakaway basket with 23 seconds left, to lead No. 13 Vanderbilt to a 51-45 victory over LSU (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today; No. 11 AP) in the Southeastern Conference tournament championship game Sunday night.
Davis, better known for her passes than her points, was a surprise scoring leader on a team that has leaned on the outside shooting of Christina Wirth and Caroline Williams and the inside power game of Carla Thomas. It was only the second time this season Davis led the Commodores in scoring.
"It was overdue, especially after how I played last night," Davis said, referring to her four points and one assist in only 14 minutes in Vanderbilt's 81-56 semifinal win over Georgia on Saturday.
Vanderbilt (28-5) won its third SEC tournament championship in six years, while LSU lost in the final for the third straight year.
"It's very, very difficult, knowing that you worked so hard to get here," said LSU center Sylvia Fowles. "To come up short every time, it's difficult."
LSU lost to Tennessee in the 2005 and 2006 finals. It has lost the three championship games by a combined margin of nine points.
Thomas added 13 points and was named tournament MVP for Vanderbilt, which has six tournament titles overall, most recently in 2002 and 2004.
"We had a freshman SEC championship under our belt and we wanted to get one for our senior year," Davis said.
Wirth scored with 2:04 left to give Vanderbilt a 46-43 lead. Following a missed 3-pointer by LSU's Erica White, Davis missed a 3 but Williams grabbed the rebound for the Commodores.
Vanderbilt, still holding the ball and the three-point lead, called a timeout with 44 seconds left. Davis caught the inbounds pass but White forced her to turn the ball over.
LSU's Ashley Thomas, fouled by Jessica Mooney with 29 seconds left, made two free throws to cut the lead to 46-45. LSU extended its defense, but Davis broke through a trap for an uncontested layup and a 48-45 lead with 23 seconds left.
Rashonta LeBlanc missed a 3-pointer for LSU, and Vanderbilt's Jennifer Risper pushed the lead to 50-45 with two free throws.
LeBlanc led LSU (26-7) with 19 points. Fowles had 13 points and nine rebounds to just miss her 20th consecutive double-double.
Vanderbilt advanced to the final with two wins in high-scoring games -- 105-77 over Florida and 81-56 over Georgia. The slower pace in the final seemed to favor LSU, which allowed an average of 50 points in its first two tournament wins over Mississippi and Tennessee.
Vanderbilt's 51 points is the lowest scoring total for any winning team in SEC tournament history. The combined 96 points set another SEC tournament record low.
"I know it wasn't as pretty as the first two games," Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. "What's really important is we showed we could play in any tempo. This was their tempo. ... Defense wins championships and I think that's what happened tonight."
A slow-paced first half gained steam with three lead changes in the final minute. Williams' only field goal of the half gave Vanderbilt a 24-23 lead at the break, but the Commodores had reason to worry about the combined five fouls between their two top inside players.
Backup Liz Sherwood was called for her third foul with 3:05 left in the half after Thomas already had two fouls -- the price of trying to stay in front of Fowles.
Fowles didn't have a foul in the first half, but picked up three in the first 8 minutes of the second half.
Even with Fowles out of the game for a short break, LSU stayed even with Vanderbilt as neither team could make a run. A 3-pointer by Davis gave Vanderbilt a 30-27 lead, but LeBlanc immediately answered with a 3.
Similarly, an inside basket by Vanderbilt's Thomas prompted a quick answer by Fowles for a 34-34 tie.
Finally, the Commodores managed back-to-back baskets by Mooney and Davis for a 42-40 lead with 4:31 left.